After 20 years of putting out music, Andy Compton from The Rurals has the hard-earned reputation for being a connoisseur of all things soulful, jazzy, with a groovy downtempo vibe. He’s about to release the 16th Rurals album to date, Retrospect, bringing in talents such as Sabrina Chyld, Katie Hector and Rogiers for the vocals and some of Bristol’s most elite musicians to round out the project. It really is a stunning piece of work, and I’m glad I got a chance to pin Andy down after his nonstop travels to talk about it.
Your 16th album? It would be an understatement to say the least, my God that’s practically one a year!
Yeah! Anyone who knows me can tell you I’m addicted to making music and I love making albums, as they turn into chapters of my life. It’s the 16th Rurals LP, but I think now over 28 albums in total.
Can you give us a little bit of the timeline on the early evolution of the Rurals from the your first partnership?
Ok, the mind’s a bit hazy, but here’s what I recall…
At the end of ’93 after DJ’ing House music for awhile, I met Pete Morris, a congas/keyboard/musician guy who had recently moved back to Devon. He had been jamming congas along with my DJ sets, so we decided to start making House music. From what I remember there were only two studios making music with computer sequencers in Devon back then. One of them was owned by the DJ agency I was working with, so we started in there with a Yamaha work station and an Atari computer.
The music was sounding well dodgy, but we were determined! So I bought an Akai x7000 sampler keyboard (that could sample 3 seconds at 15kz lol!) then that was it, time to get my own set up! I bought some tone generators and my own Atari, and that was the start of the Rurals studio. Next step was a strategically written business plan to start a label. The bank loved it so I was in the recording biz full time.
My dad gave me the biggest room in the farmhouse for my studio, and me and Pete went to work every day, never returning until a full song was recorded. I later started a label with Ideal Distribution owner Neil Massy. We did 16 releases on “Idea.” People didn’t know who we were, as the press releases were mysterious and not giving much away – we were always just listed as “The Rurals” but with no names. We’d also found our sound by then, Jazz/Funk/Soul: whole songs jammed over live House beats.
In ’99 I was introduced to Marie (Tweek), who was singing in a Drum & Bass group locally. Her voice was the perfect fit for the music, so we started making music with her and her bass player Pete Gurner. It was then that the label Peng was born.
Marie and I started doing gigs in the States, Canada, and all over Europe. In 2002 we also had our first child Rico… That was a game changer, as it wasn’t possible to tour together anymore, but we still made lots of albums.
Then we had our second child Lucas. In 2009 things took a dramatic turn, as Marie and I decided to split due to personal reasons, and the stress of having both of our kids diagnosed autistic. But the show had to go on.
I know you’ve made quite an impact with the South African scene, which is beyond massive for House Music. How long have you been going there for and where do you see it going towards? Do you think it will ever get to something harder as it has everywhere else for House?
The South Africa connection has been a gift from the universe! It’s really been fueling the music and paying the studio bills for years now. I was getting lots of promoters hitting me up to do tours over there, but they were all so laid back they’d always forget to buy the flights! So after a few too many beers one night in 2011, I decided to get online and just buy some flights, and go for two weeks. I put the word out on FB, and before you know it I had a jam packed tour arranged!
Now in 2015, I’ve just returned from my 15th tour over there.
I think House Music will always be big over there, especially in the townships, which is where I normally play. They’ve grown up listening to House on the radio and TV, and music is more a part of their culture than it is in the western world. Although money is sparse over there, they know how to enjoy life, and music is a huge part of it! They love it slow, jazzy and soulful! South Africa now feels like a second home.
Who are some of the vocalists you’ve had the pleasure of working with throughout the years and tell us a little something about them.
I’ve been so lucky to work with so many amazing vocalists from around the world: Rowan (since 1994), Marie (for 10+ albums), Diviniti from Detroit, Kafele from Chicago, Ladybird from Paris, Magic Soul and Ziyon from South Africa, Rogiers from DC, Sabrina Chyld from London, Katie Hector, and many more. Coming soon I have projects with Celestine from Bristol, Alison Crockett from DC and Nathaniel Lewis from Bristol. I’m so happy these amazing musicians choose to work with me.
On a personal note, I know you are an active vegan. Living in Bristol how did that come about and I imagine that’s a challenge with all the traveling that you do!
Being a vegan really helps me connect with the earth and live a good karma lifestyle. I grew up on a diary farm in Devon, and saw with my own eyes the grim reality of farming. My parents were never cruel to the animals, but they did what farmers do, and a lot of animals get killed for just being born male or female, and milked to near death. It can’t be a great life being an animal on a farm, but most of us tend to look the other way, as meat tastes good, and milk from a cow’s boob is standard in life. Sometimes it can be a challenge when touring, but I never say no to a good healthy salad. Where there’s a will there’s a way, I just state it in my rider lol.
Retrospect is available now on Bandcamp and will be released elsewhere on May 1, 2015.